Why a Healthy Ministry Requires a Healthy Family

a father's loveDo you ever feel like your ministry is getting in the way of your family? Do you ever feel like your relationship with your spouse is worse because of your job? Are you worried that your kids will fit the statistic of becoming messed up pastor’s kids?

You aren’t alone.

  • 80% of pastors feel that ministry has negatively affected their family.
  • 80% of pastors’ wives wish their spouse would have chosen a different profession.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.

Too many pastors sacrifice their family for their ministry. It is easy to justify neglecting family for doing “The Lord’s work.” It sounds super spiritual. However, is that what God really wants?

Chew on this thought: If you don’t lead your family well, you are not fit to lead your church.

If that hurt a little, don’t blame me. That is straight scripture. Just read the Biblical Qualifications for a church overseer (elder/pastor):

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
- 1 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV

How can someone be trusted to lead a church family if they can’t lead their own family?

Unfortunately, many pastors are failing their family. And rather than having support from their church to take the time to take care of their family, most pastors feel pressured to put in more hours and work even harder.

Andy Stanley’s book When Work & Family Collide is a must read for all pastors. It has completely changed the way I think about work and family.

The basic premise is that you will either cheat your family or your work with how you spend your time. You could work long hours, get more done and be “successful,” but at what cost? You have to spend less time with your family to do that. Andy says, what really matters most is your family. Spend more time with them. If you have to “cheat” one or the other, cheat your work. Work hard while you are at work, but don’t let your work ruin your family.

One thing I have learned the hard way in my years of ministry working at multiple churches is that I could pour my life into my ministry and make a big difference, but when my season at that church was over the people moved on, but my family was still there.

When your time at your church ends, the church will move one but your family will still be around. That is, as long as you don’t push them away.

You have to set boundaries to help you. You have to live like your family really is your 1st priority.

Some Practical Suggestions to Help

Schedule family time.

What gets scheduled gets done. Put family time in your calendar and decline everything else at that time. If anyone asks, say “Sorry, I already have an important appointment at that time.” You won’t be lying. Nothing is more important.

Date your wife.

At least every other week. Treat your wife like you did when you first dated. Bring back the romance. Don’t take your wife for granted and get lazy like most married people. Hire a sitter if need be. You might be thinking, “I can’t afford that!” You can’t afford not to! This is not an expense, it’s an investment.

Be present.

Disconnect at home. Turn off your phone. Turn off the TV. If you have young kids, spend time on the floor playing with them. If you have older kids, talk to them about their day. Ask open ended questions, that require more than a one-word answer. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of mentally checking out because you are thinking about ministry and all the stuff you have to do. That can wait. Many pastors are with their family physically, but not mentally. Your family needs all of your attention.

Have 30 minutes of “couch time” with your wife.

This is some of the best marriage advice I have ever received! After the kids go to bed, spend 30 minutes on the couch with your wife. No TV, phones or anything. 30 minutes of actual conversation (NOT ABOUT MINISTRY). Debrief her day, talk about future plans and dreams, laugh, whatever. You have to communicate with your spouse. It might be hard at first, but the more you do it, the more you will find that you enjoy it. You will look forward to this time and often go longer than 30 minutes.

Your family is your first ministry.

As a pastor, being a good husband and father is not optional; it’s part of the gig.

If you don’t lead your family well, you are not fit to lead a church.

I could say a lot more, but as I write this, my 3-year-old daughter just barged into my home-office begging me to play doll house. Duty calls!

Question: What other suggestions would you add to this list?

Other suggested resources:

Other Posts from the Best Year Yet Series

  1. Make This Year Your Best Year – Start Here
  2. 5 Characteristic of Goals that Work – Set Goals
  3. The Secret to Getting Ahead on Sermon Preparation – Get Ahead
  4. How to Eliminate Bad Speaking Habits. Umm… Like… You Know? – Speak Better
  5. Lose Wight; Preach Better – Healthy Body
  6. Why a Healthy Ministry Requires a Healthy Family – Healthy Family
  7. Out of the Overflow of the Heart the Preacher Speaks – Healthy Spiritual Life
  8. 41 Ways to Risky Preaching – Try Something New
  9. You Don’t Have Time Not to Read – Read More
  10. The Secret to Winning Time Management – Accomplish More of What Matters
  11. Do You Make This One Common Preaching Mistake? – Step Away From your Desk

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